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May 16, 2013

Unboxing & Review : BitFenix Spectre Pro LED 120mm


Another article, another excitement! BitFenix is back to play hosts in my Unboxing & Review and this time they have sent me 2 of their newest Spectre Pro LED 120mm fans.

BitFenix as most of you would know entered the PC Hardware scene with their Colossus chassis that made waves in the modding community. They claim to be "Focused on combining superior design with the latest advances in technology, BitFenix creates state-of-the-art computer hardware and peripherals that blur the line between man and machine." and so far they haven't been disappointing.

Now, I often have people asking me for recommendations as to what kind of fan to use in their PC chassis or 3rdparty heatsinks and I know I’m not alone in this. So this article will cover the BitFinix Spectre Pro LED 120mm fan as a focus and I will test it against 2 other well known fans in the local market.

Please bear in mind that I will not be able to test all aspects of the fans so the results will be limited to cooling the CPU mounted on the budget-friendly and widely used Cooler Master Hyper 212+.

The Unboxing

BitFenix Spectre Pro LED 120mm
Special thanks to BitFenix once again to provide 2 of their newest Spectre Pro LED 120mm fans one blue and another being white. 


The Spectre Pro LED is packed in a compact black box with a large window that shows the blades portion of the fan itself.


 The back details the specs of the fan.


And out of the box, you'll get the fan itself, a 5V molex adaptor, an LED control extension wire and a small bag of rubber mountings and washers for further noise reduction. I love what they have done here with the frame pattern and colour (smoked transparent) a few of these on a radiator should look sweet!! The 9 blades feels quite robust as they are reinforced with grooves to ensure that they stay in shape during operation. Through my experience, fans with wider blades often have higher Static Pressure ratings which made them suitable to be mounted on a CPU cooler or a radiator as they are able to force air through the tightly weaved fins to effectively dissipate the heat.


Instead of the traditional 4-spoked frame on most fans, the Spectre Pro has 12 spokes in total. This is so that the inner frame doesn't get distorted when it is separated from the outer frame. Yes you've heard me right, the modding community out there would be happy to know that the dual frame construction means that the outer square frame can be separated from the inner circular frame. So let your imagination run wild there folks though you do have to somehow disconnect the 5V LEDs that's affixed to the outer frame before doing so (the non-LED version doesn't have this issue). The Spectre Pro series are by all means high performance class fans, not many of these have LED lightings and honestly, not many of them looks this good. 

The LEDs can be turned on/off with the use of the BitFenix Hydra Pro fan controller simply by connecting the jumper onto the Hydra Pro with the included wire. It does seem that you could fix a simple switch to the jumper to replicate the effect but I have no sources to verify this. Alternatively, you could just do away with the jumper to turn the LEDs off should you desire. At about RM40 a piece, it is competitively priced and the features looks promising.

And here is how the BitFenix Spectre Pro LEDs look like in push/pull on the Hyper 212+, just bear with me on the mismatched colours.


The Competitors

Aerocool Shark Blue LED 120mm
This is something I picked up because of the aesthetics sometime around April 2012 so the packaging is long gone but you could check it out at Aerocool's website to have a look.



This unit was popular due to the way it looks when the LEDs are lit up, they were one of the few chassis fans out there that is bundled together with a speed limiter cum extension, sleeved connectors and rubber mounts; to top it off, it's relatively cheap compared to other fans with similar bundle. The downside? it's a pain to clean. with 14 blades all together separated by a few millimetres, it's no east task to get them completely dust-free.

Here is how they look like when mounted on the Hyper 212+


Artic F12 120mm PWM
This is a particularly well-known fan and probably the most used fan in the local forums. Basically it generated such a hype with it's good cooling/noise ratio for a fraction of the price from other high-performance 120mm fans which has caused it to be out of stock in local retails for quite some time.



The box is fairly plain-overall white with an illustration of the fan. The 6-year warranty on this thing will surely outlast a few builds.


This is the newer version of the F12 with the updated CFM rating. Another nice feature is the PST where you could daisy chain a few of them together sharing from a single motherboard header. If you're like me where there are only 3 fan headers on the motherboard with one of them being PWM, this feature is a lifesaver.

Here is how they look like when mounted on the Hyper 212+.


Here are all of the fans' specs in a nutshell:

Fan Name
Rated Speed (RPM)
Air Flow
Air Pressure
Bearing
Voltage
Noise Level
Current
Artic Cooling F12 PWM
600 - 1,350
74CFM / 125.7 m3/h
N/A
Fluid Dynamic Bearing
6V - 12V
0.3 sone (~ 12 DBA)
0.24A
Aerocool Shark Blue LED 120mm
1500
82.6CFM
1.273mmH2O
Fluid Dynamic Bearing
<9V - 12V
26.5 DBA
0.30A
BitFenix Spectre Pro LED 120mm
1200
56.22CFM
1.24mmH2O
Fluid Dynamic Bearing
5V - 12V
18.9 BDA
0.18A

It is almost an apple to apple comparison here as all the fans here are using the same type of bearing and dimentions. The variance in this test therefore, will be the speed and design. Please note that the Aerocool Shark is able to spin at 1800RPM despite of the rated speed of 1500RPM.

Tools/software used
  • CPU-Z Ver 1.63.0.x64
  • HW monitor Ver 1.21.0
  • Bitfenix Recon Fan Controller
  • Room temps to recorded via digital thermometer
Testing Methodology
The heart of my PC is an old AMD PhenomII x3 710 that is running on stock 2.6Ghz. 

All the fans will be mounted on the Hyper 212+ in push pull configuration in an enclosed BitFenix Shinobi XL with single 200mm top exhaust fan active at 500RPM. All fan speeds are controlled with the BitFenix Recon 5-Channel Touch Screen fan controller.

The following tests will be conducted:
  • Test 1 – Both fans cranked to rated full speed via BitFenix Recon fan controller, temps taken after 30mins of said activity via HWMonitor
  • Test 2 – Both fans are set at 1000 RPM via BitFenix Recon fan controller, temps are taken after 30mins of said activity via HWMonitor
To get the Idle temperature, HW Monitor is activated after 30mins of switching on the PC (no process). Only Max temps will be noted. This is then followed by Gaming for 30 minutes and Prime 95 for 30 minutes. As I do not have a sound measurement device, I have opted to record the fans while in operation via a desktop microphone.

Testing Results


The first test made all of the fans seems neck to neck with minor differences. At room temperature (30 degrees C) all 3 fans were almost neck to neck on idle with the Artic F12 faring better especially during Prime95 compared to the other 2. However, if you consider the speed of which these fans are spinning, the BitFenix Spectre Pro LED (1200RPM) is not too shabby as it's able to keep the temperature level with the Aerocool shark that's spinning at 1800RPM.



In test 2, we can see static pressure plays a big role here. Keeping the fans at 1000RPM does make the system operate at a higher temperature but the trade-off is that the fans are barely audible which is always good when you're listening to soft music and watching movies. The BitFenix Spectre Pro and the F12 performed similarly by being cooler than the Aerocool Shark overall. This means that both the Bitfenix Spectre Pro LED and the Artic F12 is able to operate effectively at lower speeds thanks to higher static pressure generated from their blade design whereas the Aerocool Shark depended on it's speed to push the air through the fins of the Hyper 212+. 

And here are the sound samples for the fans:



Conclusion

Having seen how the fans perform, the BitFenix Spectre Pro is definitely a viable choice in my books. I could understand how the Artic F12 is a favourite choice but the LED lighting option available on the Spectre Pro may well be BitFenix's gain. Another factor is that during the 1000RPM test, the BitFenix Spectre Pro LED matched the cooling performance of the Artic F12 which makes it even more appealing to me.

It's not like that the Aerocool Shark is a bad fan at all though, personally I still like the design and aesthetics but you'd have to settle with the loud noise of it when it's spinning at full speed. my suggestion? use it as a chassis fan instead of mounting it on a heatsink/radiator and plug in the speed resistor that's included.

It's very creative how the inner frame of the Spectre Pro can be separated from the outer frame, I do hope  that they will do something about the LED connectivity so that the LED version can be separated as easily. The low speed of only 1200RPM doesn't affect the cooling performance much while being quiet during operation makes it truly worthy to be used on a heatsink/radiator. Being available in 120mm, 140mm, 200mm and 230mm means that you could go for a theme build as well.

Pros
  • Unique separable dual frame for easy cleaning or modding
  • Quiet and effective
  • Good looks with or without LEDs
  • Available in almost, if not all sizes
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • LED version needs a bit of tinkering before separating the frame

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